Review: Sound of Metal (2020)

Featured image: Riz Ahmed as Ruben in Sound of Metal. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Editor’s note: On what is nearly the 9-year anniversary of my website, this review is the first post written by someone other than myself. The author of this review is Arpit Nayak, a good friend of and a regular staff writer at, where you can read more of his in-depth reviews here. Here’s his review of Sound of Metal:

Directed by Darius Marder. Written by Darius Marder (screenplay), Abraham Marder (screenplay), Derek Cianfrance (story by). Starring Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci. Runtime 2h. Released on December 4, 2020.

The story kicks off with a hard punk music performance in a club. We see the band’s drummer, Ruben (Riz Ahmed), playing it all out with lead singer and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke), snarling indistinguishable lyrics at the multitude. You want more of it, but it shifts gears as it pitches into a more piercingly pacific world where the agitation is profound and you can’t vigor your way through.

Reuben was once an addict and now lives and tours in an RV with Lou, until one day he gets up and the sound from his life is gone. They are scared and desperate. In need of help, Lou manages to persuade him into entering the deaf community. He meets with the program director, war veteran, Joe (Paul Raci), who is also unhearing.

He believes that a dysfunction does not make you insufficient and it’s not something that needs fixing. Instead, one should be at peace through silent contemplation and a belief in the Lord. As part of the community, Reuben starts learning Sign Language and getting along with others in the community. Somehow, Reuben still desires to save money to get the cochlear implants to get his hearing and everyday life back. This way, he can triumph over his misfortune, find his sound again and revive his career.

Paul Raci as Joe in Sound of Metal. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Sound can not only vitality the perceptible of a film but be a tool in itself. Derek Cianfrance and co-writer and director Darius Marder smartly contemplate deprivation and integration through a drummer’s tale of losing his hearing. The screenplay, by Darius Marder and Abraham Marder, is simple yet takes us to the critical moments that we forget. The film’s sound is constructed of audio design oscillate between tranquility and the minutiae of perceptible.

In many sequences, the audio is distorted or removed altogether. Instead of the low-level buzz of every day, they choose to keep frightening quiet. Director Marder and sound designer Nicolas Becker have experimented with an ingenious and affecting sonic environment that allows viewers to perceive the way the protagonist hears. The cinematography of Daniël Bouquet is perfect in capturing the calmness and chaos of the situation. Reuben helps us soak into his world with the utilization of outline shots and restrained lights to display the unknown new world.

Riz Ahmed as Ruben in Sound of Metal. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

The film is backed by Riz Ahmed’s remarkable performance. As Ruben, he brings out the exasperation, irritability, trepidation, desire, and misery of his circumstance. With the explanatory tattooed body, blonde hair, and expressive eyes, he adroitly conveys Ruben’s character vitality, his withholding to tackle things, his struggle to make things every day, and affirmation. The supporting cast is equally good, especially Paul Raci, who brings depth and calmness in his role as Joe, the head at the community center. Olivia Cooke as Lou, to Lauren Ridloff as Diane, a teacher at a local deaf school, to Mathieu Amalric as Lou’s dad are perfect.

Sound of Metal is a bewitching watch that will have one pensive about how unhearing is considered, both by the humankind who encounter it and community as a whole. The film is eerily prescient in these disquiet times when we had numerous things that explain our devastation away. The life of Ruben makes us think over core importance to our lives. That it does it with a winsome narrative, distinct visuals, and blistering performances; it’s icing on the cake. A beautiful scene, in the end, shows us the sound of beatific silence that, at times, gratification situates in uncanny spots.

Score: 88/100

Sound of Metal is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

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